Without truth you are the looser

If a picture is worth a thousand words, how many words is a picture of words worth?

Spelling mistake or assertion about the relationship of truth to intestinal fortitude?  Martin Luther would surely disagree, for in his case getting to the truth was intimately dependent upon getting loose, and the entire fate of the Medieval Church hung in the balance.  Luther’s was one divine and hellacious struggle.

By the time Alberto Fujimori got loose and began to deal with his struggles, he was a wanted man.  President of Peru from 1992 to 2000, he defeated the Shining Path revolutionaries by resorting to atrocities that rivaled those of this enemies.  The dirty war in Peru took over 70,000 lives on both sides, and mass graves of military executions are still being found.  Peru’s Equipo Peruano de Antropología Forense (Peruvian Forensic Anthropology Team) has made a striking documentary of the largest grave site, If I Don’t Come Back, Look for Me in Putis.  After losing the 2000 presidential race, Fujimori fled to Japan after corruption schemes involving over a billion dollars came to light.  He returned to South America in 2005 to run for president again the following year, but instead he was arrested, tried, convicted, and thrown in jail.  With or without the truth, Fujimori was finally  the loser.

How many words is a Wordsworth worth?

Notes and Credits

All photographs were taken by the author, except as otherwise noted.

“Trust your struggle” appears on the approach ramp to the Ft. Hamilton Parkway Subway Station in Kensington, Brooklyn (zip code = 11218).

“Without truth you are the looser” was taken in Lisbon, Portugal in 2000.  The ironies of this photograph go well beyond its mispelling.  But that’s all I’m saying here.

“Fujimori Presidente” was also taken in 2000, on a trip I took to Peru with students from the college where I taught at the time.  This political graffiti was seen on a fairly desolate road in the altiplano, the high plains of the Andes Mountains.  We were on a bus on our way over the continental divide, which we crossed at around 16,000 feet, and then down, down, down to the Manu River Forest Preserve.  The Manu River is a tributary of the Amazon River which at this point has just come rushing down from the Andes and is settling into the massive river it will become with each new tributary on its 2,000+ mile journey to the Atlantic Ocean at Belém.

William Wordsworthis an image from the Wikimedia Commons of what is apparently an 1873 reproduction of an 1839 watercolor of the poet by Margaret Gillies (1803-1887).

The Importance of Place: Fort Hamilton Subway Station

The Ft. Hamilton station is beneath an expressway interchange, where the Prospect Expressway empties out on to (or begins at, depending on your vantage) Ocean Parkway, beneath the Ft. Hamilton Parkway overpass.  Ocean Parkway is a major thoroughfare running south to Coney Island from Prospect Park.  It’s a folkloric parkway lined with trees and sidewalks where people are walking every day of the week, at all hours it seems.  Kareem Fahim posted this wonderful story on Ocean Parkway in the Times on October 10, 2008.

Here’s a video, working hard to be experimental, on the Parkway …

And this one, with a bowling theme, which is big here.  In summer camp they take the kids at least once a week, from age 5 on up.

The Prospect Expressway links Ocean Parkway to the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, the BQE as we call it.  This interchange is a concrete manifestation (literally) of Robert Moses’s dreams for New York.  Moses served in various posts involved in urban planning and development, and from the 1930s to the 1970s he managed to thoroughly remake the city and Long Island’s highway system, housing agencies, and parks, which we have taken up before in Truth and Rocket Science, in The truth and change, 2: Technoredemption Goes Pro and The truth and set theory: more on Mr. McNamara.  The Fort Hamilton interchange is one small of Robert Moses’s living legacy.

The photograph above is found on the Wikimedia Commons.  To the right is the beginning of Ocean Parkway, where the Prospect Expressway empties out.  The person walking away in the photo has just passed “Trust your Struggle,” to the left, on the side of another retaining wall, as is obvious from the way that he (or she?) is contemplating the solipsism of passengerless cars rushing by on the expressway.  I do not know who put this particular graffiti there, but I smile a little every morning as I walk by it.


Filed under art, ideas, life, media, philosophy, struggle

11 responses to “Without truth you are the looser

  1. michello

    Loose truth tends to loosen my bowels, for sure.

    There is something so incredibly evocative about the Peru 2000 graffiti, especially given the story of Fujimori. That man had brass balls of denial.

    South American politics certainly are colorful. As usual, thank you for the education. 🙂

    • This was one of the coolest graffiti I have ever seen. Seeing that stuff in Peru in these isolated Andean villages and highways was really fascinating. I have a whole slough of graffiti photos from the 2000 elections there.

      Hope you’re well michello … which perhaps the Beatles might have rhymed with jello in that famous song of theirs…. michello, my jello, these are words that make me think of lemon, cool yellow jello…

  2. Great post. May I use your Trust Your Struggle image in one of my posts? I love to find beautiful graffitti, words of wisdom in the strangest of places.

  3. Brilliant post, John.

    It almost makes up for the fact that your first question is the reason why I’m not going to be able to sleep tonight. Because now that you mention it, how many words is a picture of words worth anyway?

    Oh, and if the second quote is for real, I think I might stick to the “not truth”…:)

    ps. I’m guessing it’s a “he”.

    • Dear B,

      As a holder of a PhD working in health-related concerns, I feel it is my professional and moral obligation help you understand the dangers of your neurosis. At issue here is projection. You don’t want to sleep.

      First, the answer is so obvious: a picture of words is one of those mathematical paradoxes like the square root of negative 1, or the quantum physics of superposition, in which something can both exist and not exist at the same time. Thus, a picture of words is worth precisely 1,000 words + the number of words photographed. The picture of “trust your struggle” is therefore worth 1,003 words — unless when viewed from a different vantage point in space-time the picture of “trust your struggle” is not regarded as a picture at all, in which case it’s worth only 3 words. So the single answer unifying both cases is that a picture of words can be expressed in the following simple mathematical formula:

      p=n +/- 1000

      in which p is a picture of words and n is the number words in the picture.

      The real question here is why don’t you want to sleep? What are you trying to escape from?

      Second, the word game perpetrated on private property by this Portuguese hooligan is a test of will. Those that seek the truth see through the joke and are stronger for it, even if they need to have some Ex-Lax handy (and at least’s it chocolate-flavored).

      The real question here is why don’t you want to know the truth? What are you trying to escape from?

      Third, and lastly, B you are obviously projecting a raw male sexuality onto the distant photo of a person walking into the Fort Hamilton Station, but nothing else is to be expected from a sleep-deprived woman hiding from the truth in order to avoid dealing with irritable bowel syndrome.

      What are you trying to escape from?

      In conclusion, B, as your friend, as a fellow blogger, and as an important health official, I beg you to seek help soon. In the interim, there a number of appropriate pharmaceutical interventions, some of which are even legal, that I could recommend if it were not for the restraining order and my parole regulations. But that’s another story for another day.

      Cheers and good luck at napping today.


  4. Barbara

    “Trust your struggle”—this really moves me, and I don’t know why.

    Maybe you can help explain, John?

    • Barbara,

      The saying on that wall speaks to me like this: Life is always a struggle. We are always striving, trying to accomplish something, fighting to make a living, to overcome a challenge, beat back a prejudice, build something worthy of the future, give expression to an inner life.

      Life is hard, but that’s not a bad thing. Rather than searching for happiness or contentment (especially conceived as entitlement, which seems to be the American way), one should trust the struggle. Look at your struggle, ask what are you struggling for? Choose your struggle. Shape your struggle. The struggle will define you either way, so take control of what you have in front of you.

      Surrender to the now and trust your struggle. It’s a leap of faith in which everything is essentially its opposite. Surrender is the road to freedom, and struggle is the path of happiness.

      Whether you achieve your goals completely or not, you stand a chance of being fulfilled with your life and actions, the content of your deeds and character, able to look back without regrets or a sense of opportunity lost.

      That’s why I took the photograph and decided to write about it. Hope you’re well.


  5. beautiful post.
    -Trust Your Struggle Collective

  6. Pingback: 10 years later, we remember | truth and rocket science

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